Building context (and recognizing when you need more context) is an important element in the research process. Tertiary sources, especially subject encyclopedias, are often the best place to start when you are trying to establish some basic historical, social, or cultural context.
Articles in subject encyclopedias are written by scholars who have deep specialization in the topic and the articles themselves go through a stringent editing process. These resources can help you with:
In Collins Library, the print reference collection is located on the first floor, and most of the online reference collection is available in one of the database collections listed on the right. Use Primo to identify subject encyclopedias in either format; or ask a librarian for recommendations.
Start with these subject encyclopedias and branch out as needed.
Print encyclopedias and dictionaries are located on the first floor of Collins Library.
Subject encyclopedias provide a quick way to capture multidisciplinary lenses on a single topic. Compare, for example, the following selection of entries, all on the topic of the community-supported agriculture, organic farming, or the local food movement. For each entry, ask yourself these questions:
Group 1: "Organic Agriculture", Encyclopedia of Food and Culture
Group 2: "Community Supported Agriculture", Encyclopedia of Community
Group 3: "Community-Supported Agriculture", Green Food: An A to Z Guide
Group 4: "Community Food Systems", The Gale Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Food Labels
Group 5: "The Local Food Movement", Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection
Group 6: "Organic Farming", Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy
Group 7: "Community-Supported Agriculture" The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America
Not sure where to look? Each of these online collections will introduce you to a wealth of dictionaries and encyclopedias.
This subject guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you. If you're not finding what you need, don't hesitate to contact Katy!